Father Ciullo Arrested for Embezzlement

Fairfax County Police have charged Father Salvator L. Ciullo with embezzling $130,000 from Church of the Nativity in Burke. Police seized documents at Father Ciullo’s Alexandria residence during an Aug. 1 search. Father Ciullo met with detectives at police headquarters that afternoon, where he was charged with embezzlement of funds from Nativity Parish, where Father Ciullo served as pastor from 1984-96. The two-day police investigation revealed that Father Ciullo had opened a bank account without the knowledge of Nativity Church or the diocese, deposited funds in that account, then diverted approximately $130,000 to his personal account. Father Ciullo was released on $10,000 personal recognizance bond. The Arlington Diocese earlier had turned over to police copies of its extensive seven-month investigation into the financial accounts at St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Fairfax Station, where Father Ciullo was founding pastor in 1996. The diocese announced in December 2000 that financial irregularities were discovered at the parish during the course of a routine audit. In accordance with diocesan policy, Father Ciullo, who was then serving as pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, was placed on administrative leave pending further review of the matter by the Chancery and an independent auditor. "It is always difficult when situations like this arise," said Bishop Loverde. "While I am grateful to him (Father Ciullo), as many others are, for the good he accomplished during his 40 years of priestly ministry, I do not condone what appears to be the misuse of his position for personal gain. "I am deeply saddened that Father Ciullo seems to have acted irresponsibly," the bishop said. "As the chief pastor of the diocese, I consider the financial giving and sacrifices of this community to be a sacred trust. I will do everything in my power to recover diverted monies and restore the broken confidence of those of Father Ciullo’s parishioners who gave so unselfishly to the Church." Father Ciullo was ordained in April 1960. He was named pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish in June 2000. Former Arlington Bishop John R. Keating instituted financial policies for the diocese in 1992, which include, among other things: all cash and checks are to be immediately counted and tabulated; access to the funds is limited to a small select group of trustworthy individuals whose positions are periodically rotated; all parish funds are to be placed in diocesan-approved accounts; the funds, if not immediately deposited in a bank, are to be placed in the rectory’s locked safe until deposited in the bank the next day; access to a parish safe is restricted to the absolute minimum number of persons; and reconciliation of bank statements is to be performed by individuals other than those persons who regularly maintain or use the account. Bishop Loverde added to that policy following his 1999 installation to include an independent financial audit of a parish whenever the pastor retired, was transferred or died. "I consider it a sacred trust that money contributed to the Church is used to support the mission of the Church," Bishop Loverde said. "I want to assure the members of this diocese that a thorough investigation is taking place and appropriate actions will be taken based upon the findings of the investigation."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001